GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 177

Research Institute for North Korean Society
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng


North Korea Today 177th Edition July 2008

“Research Institute for North Korean Society of Good Friends, in order to bring news of the food crisis in North Korea more accurately and quickly, will increase its e-newsletter frequency to more than one issue per week. As such, the release dates might shift. Thank you for your understanding and attention to this looming crisis. We at Good Friends hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.”



City of Pyongyang Orders Many Residents to Leave
“Let’s Crush Anti-Republic Activities by the Enemies”
“Let’s Welcome Year 2012 with a Dedication of Pure Blood and Sweat”
Libelous Bulletins Regarding Food Crisis Investigated in Pankyo County, Kangwon Province
Public Trial for Seventeen People including Teenagers in City of Chungjin Province


City of Pyongyang Orders Many Residents to Leave
On July 5, the Department of Resident Registration of the Pyongyang Police issued orders regarding the ‘movement of residents.’ The directives, given to the departments of Resident Registration of the district police, first target those older residents formerly living the countryside. These people now depend on their children living in Pyongyang, but their address status is unclear. The orders state that anyone living in Pyongyang with an unclear address status shall be moved out unconditionally. The next group of residents subject to the orders is those with an unclear address status who are living in the districts near Pyongyang. The dates for the removal of the first group are from July 5 through August 5, the dates for the second group are from August 5 through September 5. In the meantime, The Ministry of People’s Police explained that these compulsory movements are being carried out in conjunction with September 9, the sixtieth anniversary of the republic and October 10, the sixtieth anniversary of the party foundation.

“Let’s Crush Anti-Republic Activities by the Enemies”
North Hamgyong Province has been delivering increasingly more political lectures, titled “Let’s Crush the Anti-Republic Activities by the Enemies Thoroughly.” The major contents of the lectures, which are spread among the province’s residents, are “We have to prevent espionage activities and the stealing of the secrets of the party and the state by outsiders. We have to fight, with a hundred-fold-enhanced awareness, those anti-party and anti-socialist agents who collect libelous and damaging materials. We should not tolerate those who create impure recordings, improper books and spread anti-socialist ideology.”

“Let’s Welcome Year 2012 with a Dedication of Pure Blood and Sweat”
Recently, there have been political lectures with the theme, “Let’s not wait for the year 2012 sitting down, but welcome it with a dedication of pure blood and sweat.” These lectures ask people that they should play an active role in the agricultural activities considered the most important by the party and should apply themselves in learning about modern technology. People should treat the factories and the farms as their own. In conjunction with these, there is talk about preventing students from staying at home and working as peddlers, a common practice. The lectures claim that people should respond to the pleas of the party and say, “a powerful nation does not come free, but it should be built with blood and sweat.”

Libelous Bulletins Regarding Food Crisis Investigated in Pankyo County, Kangwon Province

Pankyo authorities are strained by a spate of libelous bulletins throughout the county. The bulletins describe the food crisis in Pankyo County, Kangwon Province. So far, more than sixty bulletins have been placed at highly visible locations, they have soon been removed. Police officers and security agents forcibly dispersed curious people gathered around the bulletins, and immediately close off the locations where they are posted. After an emergency meeting, county prosecutors, security agents, and police officers blocked any access by the public and began investigations. The residents complain about interrogations by the police whenever they have talked in small gatherings. Any party officials with personal computers are under investigation. Thus far, no particular clues have been found and residents are concerned that the period of investigations may be extended.

Public Trial for Seventeen People including Teenagers in City of Chungjin

On June 3, a public trial for seventeen people was held in front of Pohang stadium, City of Chungjin. City authorities forced Women’s Unionists and students to witness the public trial. Among those tried were many teenagers, eleven were between fifteen and nineteen in age. Most of these teens were charged with robbing, stealing bicycles, or attacking passengers to take sacks of rice. The teens were sentenced to remain at the Labor Training Center and the six adults were sent to prison.



Good Friends: Center for Peace, Human Rights and Refugees
If you need further information, please contact

Good Friends (Korea)
E-mail:intnetwork@jungto.org
Tel:82-2-587-8996
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Good Friends USA (Washington, DC)
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Tel: 1-202-824-0788/1-301-455-9196(D)

North Korea Today No. 176

Research Institute for North Korean Society
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng


North Korea Today 176th Edition July 2008

“Research Institute for North Korean Society of Good Friends, in order to bring news of the food crisis in North Korea more accurately and quickly, will increase its e-newsletter frequency to more than one issue per week. As such, the release dates might shift. Thank you for your understanding and attention to this looming crisis. We at Good Friends hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.”



Severe Food Shortage Problem at Munitions Factories in Jagang Province
A Doctor in Kangwon Province Says, “People Started to Die from Starvation Since Last Spring.”
Early Harvesting of Barley is in Full Swing in South Hwanghae Province
Nothing to Steal in Seungho District in Pyongyang
“Plenty of Rice is On the Way. So Have Faith.”
A Female Worker at a Textile Factory Died After Fainting in Pyongyang
A Student at the Gimchaek Engineering University Was Killed by the Subway
“It is Not Happy 10,000 Li, but Arduous 10,000 Li that is Coming.”


Severe Food Shortage Problem at Munitions Factories in Jagang Province
The Jagang Province is very mountainous and the terrain is very rough. As a war front area during the Korean War, there are many tunnels in the mountains. The tunnels are still being used as storages for weapons, equipments, artillery shells, and ammunitions, and houses ammunition factories. The land in Jagang Province is not suitable for small-lot farming or commerce because the soil is infertile and the traffic condition is bad. In many cases entire family members work in the munitions factories and it would not be an overstatement to say over half of the Jagang Province population work in the munitions factories.

For being such an important and sensitive area, this Province has received more benefits in terms of wages or rations than other provinces. However, as the food shortage problems spreads to the entire country, even food rations to these areas are decreasing this year. In the past, the rations always delivered even if late, but this year the waiting is even more difficult because they have lost hope that rations will actually arrive.

A Doctor in Kangwon Province Says, “People Started to Die from Starvation Since Last Spring.”
According to a doctor at a hospital in Wonsan of Kangwon Province, people started to die of starvation beginning last spring. The food shortage problem worsened because of the flooding in 2006 and then one or two cases of death by starvation were reported. More people started to come to the hospital because of malnutrition in early summer of last year. He said, “Most of the patients came to the hospital during that time with weaklings and food poisoning cases. Some days there were so many patients we did not have time to sterilize the syringes before we gave them injections.” He says there are more people coming to the hospital than last year. He also said, “They all have their cheekbones protruding because of starvation, their eyes have no liveliness, and their skin color in the hands and faces turned into blue-black color from collecting grass. It looks gruesome because the color cannot be washed away.” He added that there are more people dying of various diseases than before.

Early Harvesting of Barley is in Full Swing in South Hwanghae Province
Early harvesting of barley in Yeonan, Baechun, Ongjin, and Ryongyeon in South Hwanghae Province is allowing for some more food rations. The countryside was the hardest hit area for this year’s food shortage problem. Therefore, there were many farmers dying from starvation. More than half of the students could not go to school, and even the soldiers in this area could eat only two meals a day. Given the situation the residents in this area say, “The soldiers eat only two meals a day, and even the officers’ families don’t receive rations. So how can the general public have rice?” They say that they do not even dream about rice. Fortunately, the year’s new potatoes, barleys, and wheat are being harvested. Therefore, people in this area are finally feeling relieved. Mr. Go Chang-hee (age 41) says, “I thought I would die when I ate only grass porridge meals twice a day during the spring famine. People who could not eat grass porridge already died. I heard from my relatives that many people committed suicide in Eunyul County and Ryongyeon County. Now the new crops of the year are coming. Therefore, it is a relief for the time being. However, we cannot stop worrying because the food shortage problem has not been resolved.

Nothing to Steal in Seungho District in Pyongyang
The farm workers at Manda-ri farm in Seungho District in Pyongyang are eating sweet potato stems in private fields because they have nothing to eat. Currently, the main staples of the farmers in this area are sweet potato stems and mulberry leaves. Since there is no food to eat many farmers are unable to come to the farm to work. The situation is so bad in this area that there is nothing to steal for the starving soldiers. The farmers at Gwangjung-ri farm are still holding on until now with the five-month rations they have received last year. As the situation at the farms in Seungho Division is like this, there are many places where unripe barley is prematurely harvested and threshed in order to provide some food to the co-op members. As such, farmers are being mobilized by the order of Division Party Office and Division Agricultural Management Committee to premature threshing of barleys.

“Plenty of Rice is On the Way. So Have Faith.”
The authorities are giving speeches in the midst of farmers suffering from food shortage in Seungho District, Pyongyang. The village secretaries came out at a meeting of farm members and said, “Recently our government flexed its military muscles and all the countries in the world including the United States became scared, and they promised to give rice. So 500,000 MT of rice is coming from the United States. South Korea’s Lee Myungbak and his followers also offered rice to us, but we declined by saying, ‘Our people do not die without your rice.’ So have faith.” Mr. Song Jae-man (age 48) who attended the speech said, “There are people who have died from starvation at our farm, and I have heard the same story in the surrounding farms. Currently, many people are on grass diet in the surrounding areas of Pyongyang, and many children are not going to school. So when I hear such stories I do not feel like having faith. Rather, I have to wonder if they are saying such things, knowing what is going on in reality. I wonder if our government declined the rice South Korea offered while understanding how much people are suffering from starvation.”

A Female Worker at a Textile Factory Died After Fainting in Pyongyang
In mid-May, a thirty-five year old female textile worker died in a factory in Pyongyang while she was unconscious. Her co-workers said that the worker did not go home for lunch after finishing her morning work. Instead, she went to the fitting room work unit, where she fell asleep. When the other workers came to work in the afternoon, they found her unconscious. She was immediately taken to a hospital, but she never regained her consciousness, and later died in the evening. The hospital said that she died from a high fever due to a severe cold. However, her co-workers said she actually died from starvation because she had not eaten anything for the past three days. Her husband, who had been a discharged soldier, went to his parent’s house in Jagang Province to get some food since his family had nothing to eat. She gave rice porridge to her two children, which left nothing to eat for her for the past three days, eventually leading her to death.


A Student at the Gimchaek Engineering University Was Killed by the Subway
On July 5, a male junior student at the Gimchaek Engineering University (김책공업대학교) was killed by a subway at the Kwangbook Station (광북역) in Pyongyang. Kim was waiting for the subway train on the platform and the moment the subway train came in, he suddenly fell onto the rails. The accident happened so fast that nobody nearby him could save him. He was a very promising student in a doctorate program. According to his fellow classmates, he could not eat well because he was poor and he had often been sick as well because he was in weak health. They think he fell off the rails due to dizziness caused by the lack of proper meals, and the long nights he spent studying.

“It is Not Happy 10,000 Li, but Arduous 10,000 Li that is Coming.”
Words like the following are spreading in the regions like Hamheung, Heungnam of South Hamgyong Province, Kangsuh County(강서군) of South Pyongan Province, and Yeonan County of South Hwanghae Province. Since the late 1990s food crisis people say the slogan used during the Arduous March, “Arduous 1,000 Li[1] will bring happy 10,000 Li” really means, “It is not happy 10,000 Li, but arduous 10,000 Li that is coming.” The words of complaint are spreading openly as people say, “They have made us suffer long enough. Why are they making us eat grass porridge and starve to death like the late 1990s food crisis? What kind of country is this? What is the point of surveying when people are not getting any help?” The authorities are trying to stop the spread of discontent and complaints, but they cannot offer any solutions to the problems.


[1]Li (리) is a distance unit in Korea and 1 Li is around 393 m.

Good Friends: Center for Peace, Human Rights and Refugees
If you need further information, please contact

Good Friends (Korea)
E-mail:intnetwork@jungto.org
Tel:82-2-587-8996
Fax:82-2-587-8998

Good Friends USA (Washington, DC)
E-mail:goodfriendsusa@yahoo.co.kr,
Tel: 1-202-824-0788/1-301-455-9196(D)

North Korea Today No. 175

Research Institute for North Korean Society
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng


North Korea Today 175th Edition July 2008

“Research Institute for North Korean Society of Good Friends, in order to bring news of the food crisis in North Korea more accurately and quickly, will increase its e-newsletter frequency to more than one issue per week. As such, the release dates might shift. Thank you for your understanding and attention to this looming crisis. We at Good Friends hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.”


(Image by Google Earth)

National Rice Prices Steady at 2,500~2,700 won per kg Without Regional Variations.
Price of Grains in the Major Cities in End of July, 2008 (Table/Graph)
Grain Prices Are Still 3 Times Last Year’s – Out Of Reach for Most People
Kangwon Province Suffering the most from Current Food Shortages
Severity of Food Shortage Crisis in North Korea, July 2008 (Figure)
The Heungnam Fertilizer Factory Is the Most Productive In This Year
Nitrogenous Fertilizer Arrives in Haeju City for the First Time This Year
Heungnam Fertilizer Distributed to Each District of North Hamgyong Province
[Opinion] Despite Some Signals of Change, North Korea's Food Situation Is Still Gloomy


National Rice Prices Steady at 2,500~2,700 won per kg Without Regional Variations.
Rice prices, which had gone all the way up to 4,000 won per kg in regions around North and South Hwanghae Provinces in late May, have been going down steadily since then and are now around 2,500 won per kg nationwide without too many regional variations. The rice prices were so unstable in late May that they would be different in the morning and evening of the same day. But they have been stabilizing throughout June and are now stable across the board in July. If you compare the prices of staple grains in major markets throughout the nation, rice’s prices are at 2,500~2,700 won and corn prices are 1,300~1,500 won without any overt regional variations. One of the reasons for the stabilization of grain prices was the psychological comfort that news of food imports from the United States and elsewhere had on the markets. Also, smuggling of food and small-scale imports from China have been coming in steadily since last month. External aid included 3,000 tons of flour from Russia and 37,000 tons of food from the U.S., as the 1st shipment of the promised 500,000 tons. As such, the grain prices are predicted to remain at a high but stable level, with the expectations that food from external sources will continue to come in.

Price of Grains in the Major Cities in End of July, 2008



Grain Prices Are Still 3 Times Last Year’s – Out Of Reach for Most People




As you can see from the grain prices charts above, rice prices, which had “gone insane” at one time, have now stabilized at a high but stable range, albeit 3 times the level of last year. However, for everyday people, the prices are still too high and make buying the grains out of reach. It is like a picture of a delicious cake, appetizing but not real.

When comparing today’s grain prices in Chungjin and Hamheung City to last year’s, it is easy to see how more expensive today’s prices are. Last year, both Chungjin and Hamheung’s rice and corn prices were 900 and 300 won, respectively; in 2008, the rice prices are now 2,500~2,700 won, about three times last year’s prices. Of course, the prices have come down greatly from the high of 3,800 won in May. However, they are still prohibitely high compared to last year’s.

The stabilization of grain prices is the result of the influx of food from external aid sources. This is good for those people with money enough to buy food in markets. But for those without money, approximately half of the population, the food prices are still too high for them to afford it.

Kangwon Province Suffering the most from Current Food Shortages
According to one official, as far as the central party is aware, Kangwon Province is suffering the most from the food shortages, followed by Jagang Province. He said that the worst hit provinces were North and South Hwanghae up to May and June. However, since double cropping is possible in Hwanghae provinces, they were able to get a spotty harvest of barley, wheat, potatoes, and other crops to relieve a portion of the population from relying entirely on grass porridges for their food. Although it is still not enough to completely stop people from starving to death, there is definitely fewer people dying from hunger than before.

In comparison, mountainous terrain of Kangwon and Jagang provinces cannot support farming as well and, accordingly, continue to suffer acutely from food shortages. If they were to put the provinces in the order of suffering from the food shortage, from worst hit to least, it would be Kangwon, Jagang, South Hamgyung, Ryanggang, South Hwanghae, North Hwanghae, South Pyongan, North Hamgyung, and North Pyongan province. Kangwon to South Pyongan provinces are seeing people who have actually starved to death; North Hamgyung and North Pyongan have not suffered any famine victims but are seeing people dying of indirect causes such as malnutrition and other hunger related diseases.

Severity of Food Shortage Crisis in North Korea, July 2008


The Heungnam Fertilizer Factory Is the Most Productive In This Year
The Heungnam Fertilizer Factory of South Hamgyong Province has managed to produce a record amount in order to meet the fertilizer demand of the entirety of North Korea. To increase productivity, officials of the Central Government and executives of the Ministry have already visited the factory several times this year and emphasized the importance of producing fertilizer. An official of the Central Government said, “Because South Korea did not send us any fertilizer this year, the government ordered the manager of the Heungnam Fertilizer Factory and the secretary of the Province Party to produce the necessary fertilizer for this year without any conditions. It also sent workers of the factory a letter of encouragement.” According to the 3rd 7-year plan, the Heungnam Fertilizer Factory has rebuilt its entire facility. Despite the extensive construction, shoddy building has resulted in little change in productivity. However, the factory has made every possible effort to refit machinery for this year, resulting in an increase in efficiency in 2008.

The Heungnam Fertilizer Factory thoroughly supervises the loss of fertilizer as well as increases its productivity. To insure that no one steals fertilizer, the factory has police officers and security guards at the front and rear gates, even going to far as to search workers’ homes to take back any stolen product. However, when farmers receive the nitrogenous fertilizer made by the Heungnam Fertilizer Factory, they do not seem to be happy and satisfied. They know that this fertilizer is low quality, meaning that it will be difficult to increase their crop yield. While many farmers are disappointed, those who did not even receive the poor-quality product from Heungnam are still envious of those who have something to spread on their fields.

Nitrogenous Fertilizer Arrives in Haeju City for the First Time This Year
On July 2, nitrogenous fertilizer produced by the Heungnam Fertilizer Factory of South Hamgyong Province arrived at Haeju station, South Hwanghae Province for the first time this year. Farms around Haeju City need the fertilizer, but have been unable to receive any due to a lack of diesel oil and thus no means of transportation. The City Party held an urgent meeting and the secretary in charge gave the managers of factories and enterprises and the party secretaries instructions that the companies should deliver the fertilizers to the farms. In fact, the supply office for farming materials has already distributed diesel oil to deliver fertilizer for this year, but each farm sold the oil in order to buy food for their workers.

Heungnam Fertilizer Distributed to Each District of North Hamgyong Province
Since July 9, Heungnam nitrogenous fertilizer produced by the Heungnam Fertilizer Factory has been distributed to each city and county of North Hamgyong Province. According to the order of the City Party, each district police station sent a representative along with two officers pick up the fertilizer. It is understood that the purpose of including the officers as guards is to prevent fertilizer from being stolen during delivery.

[Opinion] Despite Some Signals of Change, North Korea's Food Situation Is Still Gloomy
While North Korea's food shortage has deteriorated since last spring, there have been some signals of positive changes since July 2008.

First, food prices have shifted. Food prices that had begun to soar in the end of March peaked in late May, started to drop in mid June, and became stable in mid July. U.S. food aid is flowing into North Korea and assistance from the outside world is gradually increasing as well. In addition, a small amount of food smuggling is taking place in national border areas. These external factors seem to contribute to stabilizing food prices in North Korea.

Nonetheless, rice and maize have tripled in price compared to last year. Without the state's food rations, the high grain prices primarily affect those ordinary people who have no regular source of income and who are still suffering from food shortages. Although food prices have increased threefold since last year, prices of other commodities have remained stable. Even 2-3 years ago, electric home appliances were in great demand despite their high market prices. This year, however, prices of other goods, including the electric home appliances, have dropped as people spend most of their income on purchasing food.

Secondly, the spread of death by starvation has receded. Famine started in Yangduk County, South Pyongan Province in late April, expanded to South Hwanghae Province in early May and to North Hwanghae Province in late May. In June, cases of deaths by malnutrition as well as from family suicide were reported from most parts of the nation except Pyongyang.

The death toll that had been increasing across the country began to decrease gradually in July, due to exterior and interior factors. More areas of North Korea have started to receive outside aid, including ports, cities, factories, and other businesses. Also, this year's first harvest of double-cropping produce, such as barley and potatoes, from farm villages in Hwanghae Province has helped relieve the dire food situation in the region.

Thirdly, areas of serious food shortage have been changing. In May, Hwanghae Province was the area suffering from the most acute shortage of food in the nation. Farm workers were absent from duty and people began to die of hunger in a large number of farm villages. However, as double-cropping produce, including potatoes, barley, and wheat have been harvested since July, the overall food situation in Hwanghae Province, which has vast farmlands, is improving. Unfortunately, the food shortage in Kangwon and Jagang Provinces, which have relatively small farmlands and barren soil, is becoming more severe. Not only have these provinces been unable to produce their own food, aid from the outside world also has yet to arrive in these areas. The inconvenient locations of the two provinces—for example, no access to a large port—are part of the reason for the delay in delivering food assistance.

Despite the harvest of double-cropping produce and the current stability of food prices (at three times higher than last year's level), the food situation of North Korea could not be described as having improved. The food aid from the outside and the harvest of double-cropping produce can only serve as temporary pain relievers; they are still insufficient to cope with the crisis.

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that North Korea's food deficit for this year reached 1.66 million MT. Even the combination of the current international food support and the total production of double-cropping will be unable to meet the FAO's estimate. It is important to pay attention to the FAO's April 2008 report saying, "Considering North Korea's economic hardship and a recent increase in international food prices, North Korea is not able to rely on ordinary trade and instead must depend on international aid."


Good Friends: Center for Peace, Human Rights and Refugees
If you need further information, please contact

Good Friends (Korea)
E-mail:intnetwork@jungto.org
Tel:82-2-587-8996
Fax:82-2-587-8998

Good Friends USA (Washington, DC)
E-mail:goodfriendsusa@yahoo.co.kr,
Tel: 1-202-824-0788/1-301-455-9196(D)

North Korea Today No. 174

Research Institute for North Korean Society
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng


North Korea Today 174th Edition July 2008

“Research Institute for North Korean Society of Good Friends, in order to bring news of the food crisis in North Korea more accurately and quickly, will increase its e-newsletter frequency to more than one issue per week. As such, the release dates might shift. Thank you for your understanding and attention to this looming crisis. We at Good Friends hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.”


(Image by Google Earth)

Residents Gather under an Overpass in Chungjin, Worrying about Kkotjebi
Miserable Shelter for Kkotjebis under a bridge in Ingok-dong, Chungjin
Kkotjebi Shelter in Sinuiju is like a War Refugee Camp
Children Eat So Much Grass Their Teeth Turn Black and Blue
The Story of an Elderly Couple from Yanji (China) who visited North Korea


Residents Gather under an Overpass in Chungjin, Worrying about Kkotjebi
Every day people gather in the shade beneath an overpass in Ranam District to take a short rest. Residents of this area of Chungjin in North Hamgyong Province regularly drop by on their way to the market, to smoke a cigarette or have a quick bite to eat. Besides the residents of Ranam District, residents of other regions also regularly rest beneath this particular overpass. The place is alive with chatter and the laughter of gathered people. The old people come to here just to exchange news when it is too hot to work in the fields. The most frequent gossip is about the Kkotjebis (homeless children) who gather just in front of them. As the place under the overpass is crowded with people, Kkotjebis also gather here. Young Kkotjebis are busy searching for travelers who have left food behind or thrown some away. It is easy to see those who are busy with picking up and eating the shells of pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds that passersby spit out. Everyone who sees this sight worries about the children, saying “What will happen in the future? No one knows how long the children can survive and what they will be in the future. Children who need to be well fed and educated under the watch of their parents are instead searching for food in the garbage. What will they be in the future!”

Miserable Shelter for Kkotjebis under a bridge in Ingok-dong, Chungjin
There is a shelter for Kkotjebis under a bridge in Ingok-dong, Chungjin. Because of the heat and severe rain of summer, Kkotjebis made a nest under the bridge. Various waste products are scattered here and there, and the air is filled with filthy odors from nearby puddles and the excreta of Kkotjebis. The waste draws countless mosquitoes and flies. It is so unsanitary that nobody wants to go near the place. The unsanitary conditions mean that Kkotjebis often fall ill. Even in the daytime, the sick children scream and roll on the ground in pain. However, no one pays attention to them.

Kkotjebi Shelter in Sinuiju is like a War Refugee Camp
The condition of a Kkotjebi (homeless children) shelter in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province is so poor that it looks like a war refugee camp. Young Kkotjebi children are dying of hunger or of disease in the shelter. Although the city collects and supplies aid materials to the shelter, it is not distributed to the children properly. Therefore, very few children are eating regularly. The food situation is a little better for the older Kkotjebi children because they are being fed for the work they do, whereas younger children are eating only one meal a day. Shin Jung-hwa (age 38) recently took her sister’s daughter out of the shelter. She heard of the terrible rumors of children dying from starvation. Although she is in a difficult situation herself, she felt so bad about the child she had to take her out of the place. The child herself was nothing but bones and looked to be close to death. The child said four children died while she was there, they were so young they put the bodies in sacks when they buried them.

Children Eat So Much Grass Their Teeth Turn Black and Blue
The hardship of hunger is unbearable for children in the infertile land of Kangwon Province. The children follow their parents to the mountains, to the fields, and to the river to collect things that are edible in order to survive. It goes without saying that they do not go to school. There are no statistics available which describe all of Kangwon Province, but the school attendance rate is extremely low in the countryside, while the attendance rate is below fifty percent in many schools in the city. As children survive on grass porridge three times a day, many cannot even open their eyes properly because their face and the area surrounding the eyes has swollen. The eyes become turgid with blood as well. Due to the grass diet, their teeth turn a blackish grass color, which cannot be removed no matter how hard they brush their teeth. Even the teachers are going to the mountains to collect grass in order to survive. Therefore, the education system in the countryside of Kangwon Province is almost at a stand still.

The Story of an Elderly Couple from Yanji (China) who visited North Korea
An elderly couple from Yanji who toured Pyongyang, Kaesong, Panmunjum(판문점), and Myohyang Mountain described what they felt about their journey.

“Our children collected money for us so that we could visit our motherland where our ancestors are buried while we are still physically able to go. We were happy as we came to our motherland, which we always wished to visit before we die. However, our happiness turned into regret as we entered the North Korean territory. There were so many cautionary instructions such as “Do not take pictures at random anywhere, surrender letters or phone numbers if searching for relatives or friends, South Korean made goods are prohibited, do not contact or talk with people, especially never speak about what goes on in South Korea, and try not to leave the hotel on your own or explore on your own.” All the pleasure of visiting tourist attractions in the motherland was overshadowed by worry and feelings of unease.

We went to Pyongyang first. The hotel where we were staying seemed to be less than half full. The facilities in the guestroom were simple and modest, and smiling faces were hard to find among the guides or employees. We tried to take a shower after dinner, but the water cut off after a few minutes. We could not even watch television in the evening because of the nightly power outages. We tried to have conversations with people in the same tourist group, but we were told to be careful because there is a wiretapping device in the guestroom. Therefore, we could not share the excitement of visiting our motherland with others.

We got up in the morning and looked out the window. There were a lot of people trying to get on the streetcars or on a bus during the morning rush hour. Some streetcars or buses passed by without stopping because there were too many passengers, and I could see people shouting out of frustration. Some streetcars started with the rear door open because people kept getting on board. People who watched the scene were afraid that there would be an accident.

We could see some people in small groups carrying bundles or backpacks on our way from Pyongyang to Panmunjum. It looked like they were carrying wild vegetables or potatoes. They were mostly women and the backpacks seemed too heavy compared to their body size. Because it was a hot summer day, everyone’s clothes were wet with sweat and their faces were perspiring. The sign of suffering was evident in their faces.

We could see many teenagers carrying packages, backpacks, or bundle of woods in Kaesong city as well. Every so often some children would zoom by on bikes and add some liveliness to the view. Nevertheless, as we moved from Kaesong city center to the outskirt of the city, there were countless children sitting in front of houses or staying at home during the school hours, making me wonder how many children go to school.

At Panmunjum, we felt sorry for the soldiers of the People’s Army who were on guard facing the soldiers of South Korea, because their uniforms looked shabby. The colors of their shoes, belts, and clothes were faded from years of use. We understand that they are having economic difficulties. However, we felt that they could have provided new uniforms at least to those soldiers so that they could look good in front of the South Korean soldiers.

We saw many coal-burning cars that People’s Army uses on our way back from Panmunjum to Pyongyang. We noticed that the car we saw in the morning was still at the same spot, probably because it had broken down with some mechanical problem.

On our way from Myohyang Mountain to Pyongyang, we saw only 2-3 cars coming from the opposite direction during the half-day period. There was no monk in Myohyang Mountain and I was heartbroken to see many severely damaged relics exposed to the rain and wind. The Myohyang Mountain shop and foreigner’s shop did not carry many local souvenirs and the prices were high. The most regrettable thing during this tour was the fact that we did not have an opportunity to meet fellow North Korean people and have conversations with them. Nevertheless, we are pleased to have someone to talk to before we go back home. We would be very happy if our motherland could overcome its economic hardships and become a developed country just like South Korea. We hope that the wall that is dividing the North and South Korea will soon be demolished.

The customary practice for Koreans living overseas visiting North Korea is to go on a prearranged guided tour with people from the Unification Bureau of the Worker’s Party (통일전선부)or the Overseas Korean Reception Bureau(해외동포영접국). However, according to this elderly couple, their tour was not as rigidly controlled. There were some restrictions during the tour, but they relaxed during the return journey. Therefore, although we were not able to talk with the residents, we could tell someone we met by accident our feelings about the tour before we return home. The elderly couple summarized their feelings about their visit by saying, “The poverty in our motherland is not a problem because we believe that the economic conditions will improve in the future. However, it is frustrating to see them living in such a closed society. The whole world is changing every day. It is regrettable to see that things are standing still only in this country.”


Good Friends: Center for Peace, Human Rights and Refugees
If you need further information, please contact

Good Friends (Korea)
E-mail:intnetwork@jungto.org
Tel:82-2-587-8996
Fax:82-2-587-8998

Good Friends USA (Washington, DC)
E-mail:goodfriendsusa@yahoo.co.kr,
Tel: 1-202-824-0788/1-301-455-9196(D)

North Korea Today No. 173

Research Institute for North Korean Society
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng


North Korea Today 173rd Edition July 2008

“Research Institute for North Korean Society of Good Friends, in order to bring news of the food crisis in North Korea more accurately and quickly, will increase its e-newsletter frequency to more than one issue per week. As such, the release dates might shift. Thank you for your understanding and attention to this looming crisis. We at Good Friends hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.”


(Image by Google Earth)

In the Gilju Pulp Factory, a Worker’s Theft of Pulp Makes His Entire Coworkers Jointly Liable
Nine Fled From Hoeryong Detention Center
Re-education Center Plans to Release around 300
Continuous Medical Accident Prompts Tighter Control over Private Medical Practice
Reaching the Limits of Self Help, People of Hancheon, Pyongwon County


In the Gilju Pulp Factory, a Worker’s Theft of Pulp Makes His Entire Coworkers Jointly Liable
From last year to July this year, there is no sign of food distribution in the Gilju Pulp Factory in the North Hamgyong Province. However, unlike other factories, the workers of Gilju factory diligently report to work because they could buy food by selling stolen paper that was produced in the factory. This factory mainly produces papers for Rodong Newspaper (로동신문), other newspapers, and magazines, but to purchase raw material and spare parts for the machines, it also produces notebooks for the children and hand them over to the businessmen. As they could purchase 200-300 gram of corn by selling 2 kg of paper, the workers manage to steal paper despite very tight security.

(Image by Google Earth)

As the thefts become too frequent, the factory manager, party secretary, chief engineer, and production directors take turns to supervise the workplace. The factory securities guard the front and rear entrance and search workers’ bodies and belongings meticulously before letting them out the gate. If they catch a worker with stolen paper, it affects his entire work unit. Typically, all workers of his unit do not receive any wages for one month, or the whole unit is assigned to the most difficult job. Workers claim that without rationing this (stealing) is the only way to survive, and they demand food rationing as soon as possible to prevent stealing.

Nine Fled From Hoeryong Detention Center
In the morning of July 2nd, nine detainees broke the lock and fled from the Hoeryong Detention Center in Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province. There was a security guard, but since each of them took different route to flee, he was unable to catch any of them. The police blamed the qualification of the guard and punished him, and the supervisor is waiting for an appropriate disciplinary action from the higher offices. This incident made residents giddy (with hidden pleasure) or blame the guards.

Kim Sang-jin (51) said that because the police treat the residents so harshly, no one sympathizes with the police. “I shouldn’t say this but lately the security police have been too harsh. The police patrol starts work at 8 o’clock in the evening and start grabbing anyone that dressed well or appeared to have some money to coax something out of them: cigarettes, drinks, money, whatever it is that they have. There are even rumors that police officers are campaigning about how to make 50,000 to 100,000 won a night.” He expressed strong distrust against police officers.

Re-education Center Plans to Release around 300
Following the direction from the Supreme People’s Assembly’s Standing Committee (최고인민회의 상임위원회), People’s Safety Agency(인민보안성) will release prisoners with less than 5 years sentence to celebrate 60 year anniversary for the birth of the republic. Out of 700 that were housed in Jungeo-ri (전거리) Re-education Center, about 300 detainees will be released. Police offices in North Hamgyong Province are therefore revising the sentencing of those who are to be sent to the Labor Discipline Center to Re-education Center. Because when those 300 Jungeo-ri detainees are released, they will need more work forces to fill the gap.

On the other hand, in early July, Chungjin Police Department handed out very severe sentences to the women who had been captured from China. Out of seven women, three received 8 years, while four received 4-5 years, to serve at the Re-education Center.

Continuous Medical Accident Prompts Tighter Control over Private Medical Practice
The City of Hamheung, South Hamgyong Province, is clamping down on the people who manufacture medicine or practice medical services at home. On July 3rd, city police arrested three doctors who have manufactured illegal medicine and practiced illegally. This search of private homes resulted in confiscating huge amounts of items necessary to manufacture medicinal liquids for shots. The plan is to expand this type of search to include the medical students. The reason for this clamping down was several recent medical accidents. Some citizens of Hamheung complained that they suffered some side effects after receiving shots manufactured privately. Some of them had severe exhaustion that threatened their life, and some even died

Reaching the Limits of Self Help, People of Hancheon, Pyongwon County

(Image by Google Earth)

People of Pyongwon, Hancheon Rodongja-gu (workers district), have ran out their food supply since last year and their food crisis has lasted longer than other areas. Children, rather than going to school, go out to sea to collect clams. Their parents sell them in the market and buy some food. They are used to the self-help methods (자력갱생), but this year it is particularly hard. They suffer energy deficiency from eating only porridge and sometimes feel dizziness. They are complaining that it is too much for them to depend on self-help to sustain their livelihood.



Good Friends: Center for Peace, Human Rights and Refugees
If you need further information, please contact

Good Friends (Korea)
E-mail:intnetwork@jungto.org
Tel:82-2-587-8996
Fax:82-2-587-8998

Good Friends USA (Washington, DC)
E-mail:goodfriendsusa@yahoo.co.kr,
Tel: 1-202-824-0788/1-301-455-9196(D)

North Korea Today No. 172

Research Institute for North Korean Society
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng


North Korea Today 172nd Edition July 2008

“Research Institute for North Korean Society of Good Friends, in order to bring news of the food crisis in North Korea more accurately and quickly, will increase its e-newsletter frequency to more than one issue per week. As such, the release dates might shift. Thank you for your understanding and attention to this looming crisis. We at Good Friends hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.”

(Image by Google Earth)

Food Crisis Increases Criminal Activities in a Struggle for Survival as well as Kkotjebis
No Attention Paid to Kkotjebis Collapsed on the Streets of Wonsan
City of Haeju, “Don’t Arrest Kkotjebis. There Are Too Many of Them.”
High Absenteeism in Elementary Schools and Kindergartens of Farming Villages in South Hwanghae Province
A Father Who Stole a Phone and Became a Thief and a Son Who Became a Kkotjebi
Prevalent Extracurricular Lessons for Children of Party Leaders Make the Crackdown Falter


Food Crisis Increases Criminal Activities in a Struggle for Survival as well as Kkotjebis
In the worsening food crisis, the fight for survival is leading to an increase in crime which is also resulting in an increase in the number of Kkotjebis (homeless children). Young children whose parents end up in detention center, re-education centers or interrogation facilities and do not have a way to make a living are turning more and more to the Kkotjebi life style. Many happy families are being broken apart throughout the country due these conditions.

No Attention Paid to Kkotjebis Collapsed on the Streets of Wonsan
Time of new crops of barley and potatoes is here. The number of Kkotjebis, however, seems to be increasing. With so many Kkotjebis roaming the marketplace and railroad stations, even more than just last spring, the policemen seems to have lost interest in controlling them. Since the beginning of July, not a day has gone by that the morning sun has not been greeted by a street full of Kkotjebis collapsed from hunger or exhaustion. Nobody pays attention to them because people are accustomed to this scene. People do not seem to care if the collapsed children are dead or alive. Occasionally, those children are found on the street stripped of their shoes or clothes. Kim, Gil-lye (57), a peddler of water, sighs, “We will become like those children ourselves soon. How can we pay attention to them when we cannot take care of ourselves? Human beings are turning vicious in a world as ruthless as this.”

City of Haeju, “Don’t Arrest Kkotjebis. There Are Too Many of Them.”
City of Haeju, South Hwanghae Province has been trying to control the Kkotjebis population. Their number, however, has been increasing in so rapidly that the city issued directions not to arrest them any more. The shelters have exceeded their capacity and are unable to take in any more Kkotjebis. In every city meeting, “Elimination of Kkotjebis” is emphasized, but no proper measure has been found. Some have suggested building more or expanding the current shelters but it is difficult to believe that this will solve the issue when even the currently available facilities and shelters are so poorly managed.

Additionally, many deaths have been reported due to the poor conditions of those shelters that promote the spread contagious diseases among their residence. Many are saying, “It’s not right to lock up those children when they can’t be provided with proper medical care. The diseases may spread to even the healthy children and make them perish as well.” No actions have been taken to prevent the spread of diseases so far.

High Absenteeism in Elementary Schools and Kindergartens of Farming Villages in South Hwanghae Province
The food crisis has caused high absenteeism in schools of farming villages in counties of Jangyeon and Ongjin, South Hwanghae Province. More than middle schools, the elementary schools and kindergartens are experiencing a much more dramatic decrease in attendance. So dramatic in fact that teachers are finding it difficult to teach. Teachers are expected to visit the families of absent children, but the teachers themselves have become so weak due to hunger and the number of absent students have increased so drastically that they cannot visit the students as enthusiastically as before.

A Father Who Stole a Phone and Became a Thief and a Son Who Became a Kkotjebi
According to Kim, Young-ran (38) in Wonsan, Kangwon Province this food crisis is turning everyday people into petty criminals after thieving, fighting, missing work, and bootlegging just to make a living. Kim’s neighbor is an example of a ruined family. His neighbor stole a telephone from work and tried to sell it, but was caught and sentenced to three months at Labor Training Center. He had a good reputation as a sincere person. He had a chronic liver problem and could no long expect help from his relatives. He could not live on just bowls of porridge and ended up stealing a telephone from his work. When the man of the house was sent to the Labor Training Center, to use Kim’s words, “The family lost their main pillar. The situation became like getting a frost on top of the snow. The family’s hardship worsened.”

His hard-working wife tried her best to feed her fourteen-year-old son and eleven-year-old daughter. Whenever she had any spare time during “social mobilization”, she collected herb and salted fish to make some extra money. Her husband, upon returning from three-month stay at the Labor Training Center, passed away because of the liver problem. She never complained about anything but did everything she could to feed her children and send them to school, but her body was worn out and she too soon collapsed. With no adults available to make a living, the son took his younger sister to a relative’s house. The boy left his sister at the relative’s house and began a life of Kkotjebi, begging at the marketplace and helping merchants when they gave him work.

The boy, now a Kkotjebi, brought food to his mother whenever he could. Each time his mother insisted that they stay together, live or die, but the boy said that it would kill the whole family and returned to Kkotjebi’s life. In the meantime, his mother’s illness got worse and she soon passed away. The boy, as any other Kkotjebi, repeated the cycle of begging in the marketplace, being confined in the shelters and running away. Then one day the boy hurt his head badly while stealing something. And now, although he often looks normal on the outside, his head wound has caused some brain damage and he can be found mumbling incoherently to himself. The neighbors felt pity toward this boy who used to be a very filial son. He was considered very intelligent and never forgot to give his mother even ten won he made, but now he seemed to have developed some mental condition and could not maintain tidy appearance.

Early July, the boy took a piece of bread from the hands of two soldiers at the Wonsan city market shouting, “My mother is starving. My mother has nothing to eat.” Two youthful angry soldiers got hold of the boy and beat him up saying, “Do you know who we are? How dare you steal from us!” The boy was a bloody pulp when he finally lost consciousness, but he kept hanging on to the piece of bread.

Many people at the scene commented angrily, “How could they beat the boy so much? They should be treating the boy as their brother. Are they the soldiers of this republic or Japanese military policemen?” The two soldiers, surprised at the responses of the crowd, quickly made themselves scarce. The boy, unconscious, kept bleeding and trembling. Later he was taken to a shelter by a policeman. It is not known whether he is dead or alive. People guess that even if the boy might have survived, he would have suffered severe mental damage on top of the physical trauma. Kim, Young-ran says the incident broke his heart. The boy would have been happy, playful and carefree under the parents’ care. The story of his separation from his sister as well as his physical and mental injuries make any listener cringe with sadness. His father’s theft of a telephone made the child a Kkotjebi, and brought everyone all this misery. Kim sighed, “Who is to blame, his father or the world that forced the family to steal?”

Prevalent Extracurricular Lessons for Children of Party Leaders Make the Crackdown Falter
North Korean authorities have crack downed on individual extracurricular lessons because these lessons run counter to the spirit of equal education. However, it has become more prevalent and specialized rather than being stamped out. Nowadays incumbent teachers are getting teaching more extracurricular lessons, whereas in the past it was mostly retired teachers who taught a few students here and there to make ends meet. Furthermore, the number of teachers who resign their job at school and plunge themselves into professional extra-classroom teaching is increasing everyday. The most competent teachers are turning in their resignations preferring to give students out-of-school lessons that usually come with a payment of 10,000 to 15,000 Won per student.

Hong Sung-chul (37), living around the station of Mankyong District of Pyongyang, says that he is very satisfied with his life as a professional extra-curricular teacher. He describes, “When I was a teacher in school, my life was poor. Nowadays I take care of 10 students and earn 150,000 won a month. I don’t need to provide my own capital or fund, and earn far more money doing the same thing. So my life has totally changed. I had to eat on corn meal when I was a school teacher, but now I can eat real rice every meal.” As of last June 23, a directive that states that “legal punishment will be strictly applied to giving extra-curricular lesson” is delivered to local safety offices including Pyongyang. However, many students taking extra-curricular lessons are children of high executive party officers or leaders. So, in many cases, the safety officers are forced to step back from implementing the directives. Particularly in Pyongyang, many party leaders want to teach their children English and computer skills but the lack of competent teachers creates a high demand for them. In situations like these, safety officers cannot afford to crack down on these teachers and their powerful employers. Hence, some safety officers tend to overlook, rather than to crack down on these practices.

Good Friends: Center for Peace, Human Rights and Refugees
If you need further information, please contact

Good Friends (Korea)
E-mail:intnetwork@jungto.org
Tel:82-2-587-8996
Fax:82-2-587-8998

Good Friends USA (Washington, DC)
E-mail:goodfriendsusa@yahoo.co.kr,
Tel: 1-202-824-0788/1-301-455-9196(D)

North Korea Today No. 171

Research Institute for North Korean Society
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng


North Korea Today 171st Edition July 2008

“Research Institute for North Korean Society of Good Friends, in order to bring news of the food crisis in North Korea more accurately and quickly, will increase its e-newsletter frequency to more than one issue per week. As such, the release dates might shift. Thank you for your understanding and attention to this looming crisis. We at Good Friends hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.”


(Image by Google Earth)

Fifteen-Day Rations Supplied at Chungjin Munitions Factory at the End of June
“It is Scary to Imagine Hanging On until Next Year”
The Story of Mr. Cha Byung-chul’s Family’s Struggle for Survival
Prolonged Food Shortage Draws Intellectual Classes into Trade
An Explosion at the Fighter Bomber Airfield in Euiju County
A Commuter Train Derailment in Chungjin City


Fifteen-Day Rations Supplied at Chungjin Munitions Factory at the End of June

(Image by Google Earth)

At a munitions factory in the Booyoon area of Chungjin in North Hamgyong Province, the number of workers reporting for work has decreased with each passing day. The factory, which makes electrical parts used in artillery forces, has lost employees since it stopped providing a food ration. Lim Hwa-soo (age 54), who works at this factory says, “Our factory makes semi-finished products and sends them to a factory in Hamheung, South Hamgyong Province where the finished products are made to be sent to military bases. However, what is the point of going to work if you do not receive any rations? At least you can get something to eat when you do small-lot farming. Who would go to work at a factory which does not provide food to eat?” As Lim explained, many workers do not show up for work even when faced with the threat of answering to the rule enforcement unit. It has reached the point where the factory director and the party secretary are going out in person to bring in workers. On June 28, a fifteen-day portion of food was distributed to workers only because a high-level military base in the rear front sent five tons of corn. Since the beginning of July, the factory has been persuading employees to show up for work with the promise of the new food rations.

In the meantime, the Security Headquarters prosecuted two workers at munitions factory 2 because they stole semi-finished goods and sold them. After being charged with the crime of stealing war materiel, they were sentenced and sent to prison.

“It is Scary to Imagine Hanging On until Next Year”
Hwanghae Province, North Pyongan Province, South Hamgyong Province, North Hamgyong Province, Jagang Province, Ryanggang Province, and others throughout the nation report that they are in an extremely difficult situation. Hwanghae Province and Kangwon Province are known to currently have the highest number of casualties. The famine has progressed to the point where you can see several dead people a day as you walk through the streets. Trade merchants and mid-level officials are deeply concerned, saying, “If it goes on like this, something will happen within the year.”

The Story of Mr. Cha Byung-chul’s Family’s Struggle for Survival
Mr. Cha Byung-chul, who lives in the Poongin Worker’s Division (Rodongja-gu), Onsung County, North Hamgyong Province, has been living on social security benefits after having his left leg amputated in an accident at Poongin mine. He has a wife, an elder son who attended Chungjin Teacher’s College, and a younger son who has not talked since birth for unknown reasons. Mr. Cha had been working hard on a small field to feed his family while enduring the pain of losing a leg. Later, he even moved to the mountains to collect wild vegetables, herbs, and mushrooms so that he could sell them. Providing money for college for his son was a big burden, as tuition is more than 100,000 won per month. No matter what it took, he wanted his elder son to finish college. So, he used to send whatever money he could gather, although it was far less than 100,000 won. He would have been able to feed his family for six months if he stored the corn and potatoes from the small field. However, he sold them in order to pay for his son’s college expenses.

(Image by Google Earth)

After long and arduous thinking, Mr. Cha bought broken batteries attached to safety helmets at a very cheap price, turned them into lanterns, and started to resell them. More and more people wanted to buy his goods. The business was so successful that he made more than 300,000 won in a single month. As his income rose, he was able to pay for his son’s college expenses, and the family life became stable. However, he became poisoned with toxic material when he disassembled and reassembled the batteries with bare hands, as he did not use any protective gear. As a result, he became ill, with swelling in his whole body, worsening headaches, and severe pain in his eyes since the end of May. After suffering for ten days, he lost sight in both eyes.

Although he was able to see a doctor at the Province Hospital in Chungjin with the help of relatives and friends here and there, he was told that there is no effective cure for poisoning by toxic material. Mr. Cha is consumed by grief and cries everyday at home. His son dropped out of college and returned home last June. Nowadays, his elder son is doing the farm work with his mother, while taking care of his ailing father and handicapped younger brother. His elder son had to give up his dream of becoming a teacher, which was his dream since he was very young. His younger brother who went to a special education school also returned home because he could not overcome his condition at the school. As a result of Mr. Cha’s misfortune, both children have been forced to drop out of school. 41-year-old Kwak Hyun-mie, who lives in the same neighborhood unit, protested “The reality in North Korea is that we cannot even provide a good education for our children regardless of how hard we work. The children cannot fulfill their desire to learn due to hardships at home. The frequently aired slogans of ‘nothing to envy, heaven for learning, and a paradise on earth’ disappeared from TV and broadcasting long ago.”

Prolonged Food Shortage Draws Intellectual Classes into Trade
Those who have never worked in a commercial trade before are getting into business, as food shortage problems show no sign of ending in the near future. There are an increasing number of cases where researchers at research institutes, teachers who were told repeatedly by the authorities to stay focused on their duty, and physicians are entering commercial trade in the inner regions, such as Hwanghae Province and Pyongan Province. The former scholars and professionals are trying everything they can to quit their job, restrained as they are by restrictions imposed by their employers. While doctors at the hospital are making money by selling medicine in the market or to pharmacies, illegal manufacturing of medicine by pharmacology students is becoming more prevalent. Among pharmacology students, graduating seniors are not attending their classes. Instead, they are manufacturing medicine in their boarding rooms, putting them in glass capsules to make them look like genuine, and selling them in the market and to wholesalers of medicine. The drugs most often produced and sold by students are 5% or 25% injections of Camphor, Thiameturon, and Morphine. While students had previously hid their operations or been ashamed of their black market activities, they now engage in business openly. They either utilize their social network or provide bribes on a regular basis in order to maintain friendly relationships with the security agents and high-level authorities who could shut down their business.

An Explosion at the Fighter Bomber Airfield in Euiju County
On the afternoon of July 2, 2008, an explosion occurred at the fighter-bomber airfield in the Heungnam area of Euiju County in North Pyongan Province. The fire took place when an airplane oil truck came out of fuel oil storage for aviation training. The fire was due to the careless handling of the truck by the oil storage workers. The oil truck driver died at the scene, while the oil storage workers received burns. The aviation training plans and the overall flight-training schedule for the aviation headquarters and the Department of General Staff were cancelled. At the time of accident, there was an enormous explosive sound and black smoke rose quickly into the sky, as if bombs were exploding in a real war.

A Commuter Train Derailment in Chungjin City
On the afternoon of July 4, a commuter train from the Chungjin Station of Chungjin City in North Hamgyong Province to Bangjin-dong in Chungam District flew off the rails near the Raksan Station. The link connecting passenger cars suddenly failed, leading to an accident in which a number of passengers were injured. Of the estimated ten passengers who were hurt, the injuries ranged from minor bruises to traumatic external wounds. Since the railroad authorities currently have no plan to deal with the injuries, the injured and their families worry greatly about the hospital bills. After the accident, the blocked railway resulted in further damage, as train service could not be resumed for six hours.



Good Friends: Center for Peace, Human Rights and Refugees
If you need further information, please contact

Good Friends (Korea)
E-mail:intnetwork@jungto.org
Tel:82-2-587-8996
Fax:82-2-587-8998

Good Friends USA (Washington, DC)
E-mail:goodfriendsusa@yahoo.co.kr,
Tel: 1-202-824-0788/1-301-455-9196(D)

North Korea Today No. 170

Research Institute for North Korean Society
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng


North Korea Today 170th Edition July 2008

“Research Institute for North Korean Society of Good Friends, in order to bring news of the food crisis in North Korea more accurately and quickly, will increase its e-newsletter frequency to more than one issue per week. As such, the release dates might shift. Thank you for your understanding and attention to this looming crisis. We at Good Friends hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.”


Police Officer Dismissed for Racketeering Families Trying to Escape
Dismissal of a Police Officer for Misconduct toward an Honorable Solider
A Squid Fishing Ship Is Missing: Families Are Worried
Becoming the Leader of Neighborhood Unit is a Half-witted Person’s Job
People Can Make 50 won by Selling Clovers Collected All Day
Pillars of a Coal Pit of Geomduk Mine Collapsed and 13 Miners Were Trapped


Police Officer Dismissed for Racketeering Families Trying to Escape
A police officer of the 2nd area of Obong Rodongja (workers)-gu (오봉노동자구 2구역) police station in Eunduk County, North Hamgyong Province was dismissed for wrongdoing on June 26, 2008. As food prices have been skyrocketing with the food shortage crisis in North Korea, many North Koreans have chosen to cross the river into China to escape this dire situation. The dismissed police officer used this opportunity to take bribes from people who were attempting to cross. An investigation team discovered that the 2nd area of Obong Rodongja-gu (under this police officer’s jurisdiction) had the largest number of missing people reported. This officer would visit the houses of missing people to steal goods and cash.

This officer had taken bribes in various ways. First, he asked residents to loan him cash with the excuse a friend of his needed some. Sometimes, he implicitly demanded a bribe from people by suggesting contributions or gifts for upcoming birthdays of senior officers. At other times, the officer lured people by promising to look after their affairs if anything happened in the future. If refused, he threatened them by saying not to blame him for not helping if they needed his help later. As such, he was able to threaten residents.

In addition, the police officer was infamous for misbehaviors was hated due to his insolent actions. He acted high-handily based upon his power and position. People who heard of the news of his dismissal responded that "a person who deserves the punishment was punished" and welcomed the authorities' decision. One the other hand, others expressed their concerns, "Everyone has a dark side. A new officer will not make any difference. Crows in the world are all black; what if a new officer turns out to be a worse tyrannized than the predecessor?"

Dismissal of a Police Officer for Misconduct toward an Honorable Solider
There was a police officer in a market management office in Sariwon, North Hwanghae Province who used to hurl streams of abuse to and eject people who were doing business in restricted areas. One day, he urged a man who looked about 50 years old to leave as usual. The officer who could not stand the sluggish behavior of the man shouted at him. "Are you deaf or blind? Didn’t you hear me? People who were sitting next to you left swiftly. Why are you so slow? What is your intention? Do you intend to continue your market activity here?" In addition, the officer began to kick him. As a long-time control officer, he became accustomed to using physical force and it became a habit. A while after being kicked, the man politely mentioned that "even though I violated the rules, isn't it rude to kick a person like this?" In response, the officer hysterically said, "You are a breaking the rules and you don’t have the right to respond!" and started to beat him again.

Even people on the street who were watching the scene began to strongly criticize the officer for his misconduct. A merchant voiced his anger, "Do you know who this man is? He is an honorable soldier who had served as a staff official until a few years ago. He left the army due to a leg injury. What kind of person are you? How dare you treat the person who had served for the country at the risk of his own life like this? Because the State provides nothing, he is coming to a market to sell vegetables that he himself grew to survive. Even though you cannot help him, how can you possibly beat him like this?" In fact, this former honorable soldier was able to only barely make ends meet and only with the help of some female local traders' at the market.As the officer and residents were fighting with each other, the chief official who was in charge of North Hwanghae Province railroad inspection came on to the scene. The chief officer who saw officer's outrageous behavior showed him his certificate and firmly criticized him for his violent words and deeds. Finally, the police officer was reported to the municipal police station and was eventually dismissed.

A Squid Fishing Ship Is Missing: Families Are Worried
A Squid fishing ship that belongs to Rohchang(로창) Fisheries Enterprise in Cheongam District (청암구역), Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province left port on June 29, 2008 and has not yet returned. The families of the fishermen have been waiting for any news and have been desperately worried. In the absence of weather effects—typhoons and big waves, many conjectures about the missing were offered; mechanical problems of the ship, arrest by the Russians in the Russian waters, etc. The families were concerned as neither official announcement nor efforts to find them have been made. As days go by, there is little hope for the survival of the fishermen and the families are becoming more desperate. A senior fisherman insinuated that the ship might have intentionally entered the Russian waters, and he said, "It has happened in the past. Ships intentionally go to the Russian waters and often get caught. During hard times, people are willing to do so for survival. If arrested, you have to provide 1-2 months of free labor. Even though you are not paid, they still provide you food. In addition, they also reward you with fish for earlier work when released. Therefore, there are people who would enter the Russian waters on purpose."

Becoming the Leader of Neighborhood Unit is a Half-witted Person’s Job
Because of the bad reputation of being the head of Neighborhood Unit or the leader of Primary Unit of Democratic Women’s Union, people do not want to take on these roles in some districts. In former days, the leaders of a Neighborhood Unit or of Primary Unit of Democratic Women’s Union were highly respected positions for any ordinary resident, so only able and passionate people were selected for these positions. However, currently no resident wants this job and says, “A half-witted and silly person can do this work.” The main duties of leaders of a Neighborhood Unit or Democratic Women’s Union are to collect funds for construction projects, collect items for contributions, and visit every house from early in the morning to late night to ask residents to participate in the mobilization of year round events. With the food shortage, everyone is now busy with trying to procure food that it is natural for the residents being asked for social mobilizations or contributions get annoyed. When the leaders visit a household that cannot contribute money or items, people can hear swear words and severe reproaches the resident. Qualified people refuse the position by saying, “Who wants to do this job?” Considering this situation, it happens that several districts have not mobilized women during the period of agricultural mobilization. Because they do not have a head of a Neighborhood Unit, it is impossible to mobilize or organize women systemically.

People Can Make 50 won by Selling Clovers Collected All Day
As the food shortage becomes worse, residents of Baesa-ri, Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, have fed themselves and their family by picking wild greens on the mountains and fields. They collect the greens to make thin gruel and sell them at the market, so they are eager to go to the mountain to pick the greens. Even if a person can collect 5kg of clovers a day, the person can make at most 50won by selling them. Because a person can barely buy 20-30g of corn with this earned money, at least three members of each household need to pick the greens to feed a family with corn and green gruel. Men and women of all ages of Baeksa-ri, Sinuiju go to the mountain to pick any possible medical herbs such as Chinese bellflower, Codonopsis lancelet, wild mushroom, Solomon’s seals, etc. Because these herbs are more expensive than other greens, people are competing to pick these herbs.

Pillars of a Coal of Geomduk Mine Collapsed and 13 Miners Were Trapped
On June 24, supporting pillars(dongbal;동발) [1] of a coal pit where the 3rd mine platoon of Geomduk mine of Dancheon City, South Hamgyong Province was working collapsed and blocked about 30 meters trapping 13 miners. Geomduk Mining Union Enterprise devoted all its efforts and strength to rescuing these laborers and succeeded two days after the accident. However, three miners died, nine mineworkers are receiving treatment at the hospital, and one is being treated at his home because he was only slightly injured. There have been big casualties because of mining accidents, but most miners want to work even at the dangerous coal pits. Miners say that working in the pit is the only way to feed their family in these hard time and they do not mind putting their lives in danger.



[1] Supporting pillars of a coal pit. These pillars are called ‘dongbal’ and are placed to prevent the pit from collapsing.

Good Friends: Center for Peace, Human Rights and Refugees
If you need further information, please contact

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North Korea Today No. 169

Research Institute for North Korean Society
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng


North Korea Today 169th Edition July 2008

“Research Institute for North Korean Society of Good Friends, in order to bring news of the food crisis in North Korea more accurately and quickly, will increase its e-newsletter frequency to more than one issue per week. As such, the release dates might shift. Thank you for your understanding and attention to this looming crisis. We at Good Friends hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.”



(Image by Google Earth)


Workers in Pyongyang’s Neighborhood Say, “Couldn’t we get the rice from America?”
The Miserable Food Shortages of the Sooncheon Vinalon United Enterprise
Workers of Chungjin Steel Mill Are Doing Piecework Squid Catching on the Side
Hoeyang County Concerned about Harvests in the Fall Due To Lack of Fertilizer
In Euiju County, Money Borrowed From Loan Sharks Is Used to Distribute Supplies to Workers
In Gopoong (고풍) County of Jagang Province, Factories Will Produce Only 20% of the Production Quota


Workers in Pyongyang’s Neighborhood Say, “Couldn’t we get the rice from America?”
Joongwha county of Pyongyang city has a factory that belongs to the Support Bureau of the military. Though this factory is under the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces, it has the same problem with food shortages as other factories, a state of affairs confirmed by its porridge-eating workers. 49-year-old Kim Hye-uk reports, “Eating grass porridge for so long, I often have a bad headache, feel sick, and throw up. My body often aches all over and I feel worn-out. Anyway, working is dead hard for me. Having nothing to eat, many families split to find ways to survive on their own.”

Bae Jong-whan, a 43-year-old man, complained about the dreary reality of food shortages, “With so many workers lying sick at home, the factory doesn’t send us any regards, but just urges us to come to work without helping us at all. They even condemn us, asking how come we cannot overcome such problems when our four limbs look fine. As a matter of fact, officials and soldiers have food, but even after working dog hard we get nothing to eat; eating nothing, we are too exhausted to move! Such ungrounded curses just get me enraged.”

When workers asked when they can get rations, an official of the factory replied, “With soldiers campaigning for two meals per day, how could there be any rations left for workers? Rationing will not be possible until October.” Upon this response, workers, as they stress the fact that their factory belongs to the Support Bureau of the Military, asked if they could get rice that has been transported from America. In response, factory officials said, “Stop fooling around and go for self-sufficient life!” Workers seem to be wondering why they cannot get any rations despite the Party’s grand publicity campaign that rice is being transported from America.

The Miserable Food Shortages of the Sooncheon Vinalon United Enterprise
The Sooncheon Vinalon[1] United Enterprise(순천비날론연합기업소), which is one of the most famous factories in North Korea, is suffering the same food shortages as other areas. The factory has hardly distributed rations to its workers this year. This factory, having been built with an enormous budget, boasts the largest scale in terms of the number of workers and floor area, yet it has not begun its business properly due to careless construction and poor planning. Nowadays, depending on workers’ place of work, they are given a free hand to sustain their own life. General workers are merely participating in Morale Support Mobilization in each society. With this year’s food shortages getting serious, the number of the participants in social mobilization is decreasing. This is because one after another workers are fainting at home out of extreme hunger. It is said that the officials in charge of the factory are very anxious about the drop in the number of workers coming to work; however, they do not have any remedy for this problem. As the number of absentees soars, directive officials at the factory are announcing that workers who report to the factory will be given rations of whole maize or long grain rice, but many workers are still doubtful.

Workers of Chungjin Steel Mill Are Doing Piecework Squid Catching on the Side

(Image by Google Earth)

As the food shortage gets more serious, workers of the steel mill(제철소) located in the Ranam district of Chungjin city are increasingly looking for a side job instead of going to work. Workers with some money pay the factory 25,000 won per month and go out to catch squid to support themselves. While those who paid money to the factory are given free rein to find supplementary work, those who cannot afford to pay are ordered to quit their piecework and get back to work again by the security officers of the factory. Those workers who resist face an inquisition into their ideology and other threats.

While more than half of the steel mill’s workers are looking for side jobs regardless of whether they paid the factory, others going to work are rummaging in every corner of the factory to see if there is anything left for sale. On June 28, a welder and 150 meters of copper wire were stolen at a steel casting workplace (주강직장). The primary party (초급당) of the steel mill is threatening to punish the culprit severely, but most workers seem to be indifferent. They say it is not surprising that workers surviving on grass porridge will steal in order to buy food. Workers share the opinion that no matter how hard the officials punish theft it will continue unless food rations resume.

Hoeyang County Concerned about Harvests in the Fall Due To Lack of Fertilizer
In Hoeyang county of Kangwon Province, having had no fertilizer since the beginning of this spring’s farming, people are already highly concerned about rice crops and corn this year. The county farming committee has reported to the province administration committee that corn fields are drying out and raised the problem of fertilizer shortages, the only answer they received was: “Go for self-reliability.” The county is mobilizing workers from factories, enterprises, neighborhood units, middle school students, and even first graders of elementary schools to help with the farming. The county ordered them to collect 10 kg of Heukbosan[2] fertilizer (흙보산 비료) per head. Most people have brought blue or dried manure just to meet the allotted amount, so the collected fertilizer contains less than 20% of the necessary ingredients.

Having scattered these kinds of fertilizers, crops are not growing well. Some time ago, the county party was told to pick up fertilizers from the Farming Resources Provision Unit; however, without any oil available for the vehicles, they were almost unable to transport the fertilizer. The county party was particularly anxious about the lack of transportation, fortunately, stationary troops of an artillery rocket regiment (주둔군인 1군단 방사포 련대) made 6 vehicles available. The troops expressed their willingness to help people with their farming. Thanks to the assistance, fertilizers could be transported without any problem. Considering the size of the field, the amount of the transported fertilizer is insufficient, so it has been agreed upon to use it sparingly. Whenever someone is spotted using the fertilizer for individual small areas, they are reported. It has also been ordered that farmers should exert self-reliance in preparing fertilizers in the future. Farmers, whenever they get together, say, “It is obvious that we are going to have a bad harvest this year.” They share the great concern that similar food shortages will definitely occur in the future.

In Euiju County, Money Borrowed From Loan Sharks Is Used to Distribute Supplies to Workers

(Image by Google Earth)

An emergency meeting has been called because workers, who have little to eat, did not come for work at Ryongwun-ri Farm (룡운리 농장) in Euiju County of North Pyongan Province. The administrative board even borrowed money at high rates from loan sharks to give 10 kilograms of corn to every family regardless of the number of family members. The Ryongwun-ri Farm borrowed a total of 8,000 won, but the interest is 1,600 won. The interest will be taken out of the worker’s food ration after the fall harvest. If this happens, it is obvious that workers will once again suffer from food shortage next year.

In Gopoong (고풍) County of Jagang Province, Factories Will Produce Only 20% of the Production Quota
An emergency County Party meeting was summoned in Gopoong County of the Jagang Province, when the authorities found that less than 20% of the production quota could be produced through public enterprises. At the meeting, it was reported that this year’s low accomplishment is because of the number of absent workers. In response, the meeting discussed measures to deal with the workers who have stayed home due to the food shortage. The meeting emphasized, “No matter what the circumstances, the production task must be completed.” Even worse, there was a threat saying, “Any secretaries or superintendents who can’t achieve their production plan should be ready to step down.” The meeting also indicated that if any person responsible for public enterprises does not complete the tasks given by the County Party by the next meeting, he or she will be handed over to the Organization and Guidance Department to be examined and fired. An executive who heard about the meeting sadly commented, “If they think they can resolve the current problem by threatening us, they are very naïve. How can the current situation be resolved when they act as if they know nothing about what is going on these days?”


[1] A synthetic fiber invented by North Korean scientist called Lee Seung-ki, two years after the invention of nylon
[2] A fertilizer made by North Korea, it contains an ingredient used to restore the soil

Good Friends: Center for Peace, Human Rights and Refugees
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